My con-man and I are in a bar of the local dive variety. There are plenty around to choose from, each with its own stale smell and group of old timers lined up in a row. We're chatting about nothing in particular – small talk over beers. The words aren't what matters; it's the current beneath. My want mingles with his manipulation and the two form a sea of some heretofore unknown ectoplasmic ether that carries us both toward the inevitable.
"You know, I don't think I've ever been in this bar before." This is not entirely true, but my previous visits are few, far between, and never included placing an order. My face won't stand out as a repeat customer.
"Lot's of bars in the world. What's so special about this one?" He leans back and slow chugs his drink; lets me feel I'm controlling the conversation while he watches for my tell.
"I've just lived or worked within blocks of it for years. It's one of those bars that all the locals have a nickname for. But I've never had a drink here."
He sits up, suddenly alert. "And you're not one of the locals?" His edge is keener than I'd realized. This will be more fun than I thought. The sharp ones always are.
"I guess it's more home than Home is, at this point, but I'm an import by way of southern Illinois."
"And I thought you were just making fun of my accent."
"You have an accent?"
We both laugh, for entirely different reasons. His eyes linger on my mouth and mine on his hands. Everyone has their weakness.
He begins to test the waters. "You play pool?" He knows what thinks he needs to but hasn't settled on a goal yet; maybe a friendly wager. The night is young and the possibilities endless, as they say.
I'm only interested in one outcome so I answer his challenge with one of my own, "Only when I'm spun. Can't see the math, otherwise."
He laughs but offers nothing. "I haven't done that in a while. I got a little grass if you got a place to smoke it, though."
"I think I can manage that." I pound my beer, pay the tab, pack and light my cigarette before he has a chance to ask any questions. It's time to focus.
To be continued...